San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

COVER: Local veterans participate in San Marcos’ Veterans Day Parade in November 2013. About 15,530 veterans live in Hays County, according to the Texas Veterans Land Board. FILE PHOTO by DON ANDERS

by BRAD ROLLINS

Military veterans whose homes were damaged by the Memorial Day weekend flood and other natural disasters this summer will be eligible to apply for no-interest home improvement loans under a relief program being developed by the Texas Veterans Land Board.

Prather

Prather

The state agency will also extend 30-year home mortgages at discounted interest rates to veterans who were forced from rental housing by the unparalleled string of natural disasters that hit Texas between May 4 and June 22, Hays County veteran services officer Jude Prather told the commissioners court on Tuesday. Both programs — the home mortgages and the home improvement loans — will be available to veterans in 110 counties declared disaster areas including Hays, Caldwell, Guadalupe, Blanco, Travis, Bastrop and Williamson counties in Central Texas.

“When we had the flood, [the Texas Veterans Land Board] reached out to me and asked if there was anything else they could be doing to help veterans in Hays County. … I said, ‘Well, could you cut the interest rates for home improvement loans for veterans affected by the flood?’ Initially, I thought they were just going to reduce those interest rates [but] I was surprised at their generosity. They’re going to cut them down to zero,” said Prather who said program details will be released by the General Land Office in the next few weeks.

Through the land board’s Veterans Housing Assistance Program, the state of Texas underwrites mortgages of up to $417,000 at reduced debt service costs. As of today, the VHAP base mortgage rate sits at 3.34 percent compared to a market average of 3.84 percent for a 30-year conventional mortgage, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. The land board deducts an additional half-percentage point off its base interest rate for veterans who are classified as at least 30 percent disabled.

During the most recent fiscal year, veterans bought homes in Hays County for a combined total of nearly $11.3 million through land board loans, land board veterans liaison Ken Wallingford said on Tuesday. Hays County is in the top 10 statewide for home purchases by veterans.

With the additional interest rate discounts, a disabled veteran displaced by natural disaster may be able to secure a 30-year-mortgage for 2.64 percent, based on current interest rates, Prather said.

Prather said his office has identified 46 veterans in Hays County who were displaced by the flood.

After the disaster, local advocacy groups such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion stepped in to meet veterans’ immediate needs through thousands of dollars in gift cards and hotel rooms, he said.

Central Texas Returning Heroes, a Dripping Springs-based nonprofit organization, is leading efforts to collect donations to help veterans with household necessities such as furniture and appliances, vice president James Clements told commissioners.

The organization’s Patriot Of The Year Banquet will be held 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10 at the Salt Lick Pecan Grove in Driftwood. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Central Texas Returning Heroes’ work.

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